July 1, 2008
What do you consider the most neglected topics and/or contributions in late 20th-century studies of computation and/or information?
Computer and information science have tended to define themselves in a rather engineering-based way—concentrating on creating and studying systems that perform particular specified tasks.
But there’s a whole different approach that’s much closer to natural science: to just investigate the computational universe of possible programs, and see what’s out there.
One might have thought that most programs that one would encounter this way would not do anything very interesting. But the discovery that launched what I’ve done for the past quarter-century is that that’s not the case. Even remarkably simple programs—that one would quickly encounter in sampling programs from the computational universe—can show immensely rich and complex behavior.
There’s a whole new kind of science that can be done by studying those programs.